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Rural History - Traction Engines & Portables

Traction Engines were the first powered vehicles on many farms throughout the district, before diesel powered tractors became the norm. Check our 'Open Days' page for information on when you can see these classical machines of the past for yourself!

1/3 Scale Burrell Traction Engine

1/3 Scale Burrell Traction Engine

Made by local engineer, the late Hugh Rainey, "The Rainey Engine" as its commonly referred to as is a 1/3 scale Burrell Traction Engine.

The engine weights in at 15cwt, or 680 kilograms, and has three gears or speeds. Most of the engine is constructed of mild steel, excepting the cast iron flywheel and cylinder liner - the cylinder block (3 inch bore x 4 inch stroke) having been fabricated from numerous different components. The main crankshaft was machined down from a solid hunk of steel.

The Rainey Engine can usually be found in its own building, which was erected by the Hughey Rainey Trust with the help of a donation from the Ashburton District Council and with free labour provided by the Ashburton Kiwanas Club, the bricks of the Rainey Engine Shed came from the old Ashburton Borough Council Building.

In 2012 the assets of the Hughey Rainey Trust were transferred to the Ashburton Railway & Preservation Society which had maintained and operated the Engine for many years.

8 Horse Power McLaren Traction Engine

8 Horse Power McLaren Traction Engine

The Mclaren Traction Engine, or "The Mac" as its known, in the care of The Plains Museum was bought new in 1925 from Leeds, England, by the Ashburton County Council and is still owned by the Ashburton District Council (which replaced the Ashburton County Council in 1989).

A former New Zealand Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Sid Holland, personally drove the engine from the agents, W. A. Mclaren in Christchurch, to Ashburton to deliver it to it new owners. It was one of the last traction engines imported into New Zealand, as by the 1920’s internal combustion tractors were becoming more and more successful and slowly replacing steam as the main power on farms throughout the country and the world. The McLaren spent a lot of time running a stone crusher in the Council’s Yard (where Ashburton Contracting Limited now has their concrete facilities, adjacent to the Ashburton River) and had done a considerable  amount of ‘belt work’ - driving machinery from the vast flywheel - and not a lot of road haulage.

Since being placed on loan to The Plains in 1980  "The Mac" has been overhauled and repainted on a couple of occasions and has been a fixture of many Canterbury Vintage Machinery Rallies for many years. In recent times it can often be seen chugging away outside the machinery display sheds on Running Days.





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